Listen Up! May New Music

Collage of album covers with "listen up" written over them

Spring is flying by, and it appears that May is giving us a sneak preview of summer as a makeup gift for all the rain we had over the last few months. The timing is just right, because we just received a batch of new releases that would make a great soundtrack for a night of grilling, hanging out on the deck, or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Place your holds now, and check out the latest at the EPL:

Les Amazones d’Afrique – Republique Amazone (Real World Records, 2017) – Les Amazones are an all-star collective of West African songstresses who have united to create music about feminism and gender equality. Each vocalist brings her own unique style to the table, creating a very satisfying mix of rock, trip-hop, dub, blues, electronic, jazz, West African pop, and traditional music. The overall effect is a very dance-floor-friendly approach to protest music.

Feist – Pleasure (Interscope Records, 2017) – This is an album that covers a lot of ground with ease: at times blues rock with very subtle country undertones and others grinding and almost punk. The pace of the album seems very laid back but deliberate; each track follows its own timeline, building to just the right level of complexity to perfectly complement the vocals. I appreciate the contradictions: gritty and lovely – soft vocals and loud riffs. There’s something about the production, imperfect with the pop and hiss of an old mix tape, that makes it feel very intimate.

Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman (Capitol Records, 2017) –  Mary J. Blige brings us a classic breakup album with all the anger, pain, strength, and redemption that you’d expect from such a legendary artist going through some pretty intense pain. Cameos by Kanye West, DJ Khaled, Missy Elliott, and Kaytranada only enrich an already strong offering. As in all her music, Blige shares her struggles through her art and uses the medium to pull herself through life’s trials – in Strength it appears she is, once again, emerging from the test on top.

Wale – Shine (Atlantic Urban, 2017) – a deceptively upbeat release with a summer feel, but behind each track lies a little bit of darkness. Wale seems to be emerging from a period of struggle both with other artists and with himself. The arrival of his newborn daughter seems to be a strong driving force for this change and also a reoccurring theme in his music.

Perfume Genius –No Shape (Matador, 2017) – Mike Hadreas’s latest release is an ecstatic celebration of love. Following similar LGBTQ themes from his previous albums, he delves into the facets of his relationship with musical collaborator and long-time partner, Alan Wyffels. No Shape is a collection of dreamy, dramatic recordings, full of bright highs and turbulent lows that explode with layer upon layer of sound.

Brother Ali – All the Beauty in This Whole Life (Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2017) – Veteran Minneapolis MC Brother Ali revisits an old collaborator, Atmosphere producer Ant, for an expansive new collection of beats and rhymes. All the Beauty in This Whole Life touches on familiar themes for Ali, mixing politics, religion, family, race relations, and the artist’s experiences exploring the world all backed by relatively sparse but soulful production.

Jay Som – Everybody Works (Polyvinyl Record Co., 2017) – I have to admit that Jay Som was a bit of an unknown to me. I’d purchased her unofficial debut, Turn Into, last year when her Bandcamp upload of assorted tracks was re-released by Polyvinyl, but it didn’t really register with me. When I first previewed Everybody Works I needed to do a little more research, because I felt like I’d just run into someone I should know – the album had a polished feel of a veteran rocker, full of confidence and sophistication. To my delight, I learned that this was the first ‘official’ release of 22-year-old Melina Duterte – recorded in her bedroom studio and full of the promise of lovely music yet to come. Everybody Works has kind of a soft, sleepy vibe, occasionally amplified by interludes that feel a little bit like 90s alt rock. There’s a lot of depth and variety to Jay Som’s sound, offering a little something for everyone. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

Juanes – Mis Planes Son Amarte (Universal Music Latino, 2017) – Readers of this blog may have noticed that I have a soft spot for albums that tell a story – Mis Planes is no exception. In his latest release, Juanes embarks on an audiovisual saga of love and outer space. Follow along as a Colombian astronaut searches for true love; you have the option of just listening to the CD or popping in the bonus disc to enjoy the videos that go with each track. Juanes’s sound is heavily influenced by the traditional music of his native Guasca region of Colombia but it also features layers of different sounds: a little surf rock, a little electronic music, crooner vocals to pull on your heartstrings, and even a little reggae and reggaeton. Pop this in if you’re looking for something with a very tropical, romantic feel to it.

Happy listening, and enjoy the sunshine!

Listen Up! April Music New Arrivals

Here’s my quick take on what’s new and exciting in the EPL’s music collection. Place your holds now!

Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness (Midheaven/Revolver USA) –sometimes life can be a little hectic; you need the ability to sit back and enjoy simplicity. Singer/songwriter Julie Byrne seems to have crafted this album understanding that need for balance. Not Even Happiness provides a very atmospheric mix of instrumentals, warm vocals, and even some well-placed silent breaks, to create just the right tone to showcase her dreamy, poetic lyrics.

Vagabon – Infinite Worlds (Father/Daughter Records) – harmonious, folky indie rock with a lot of slow builds and powerful breaks. This deceptively simple backing leaves singer Lætitia Tamko with full possession of your attention to deliver her thought-provoking vocals. Taking into account her immigrant origins (she came to the US as a teen from Cameroon) Tamko’s work feels very urgent as she tackles concepts of belonging, community, relationships, and the search for common ground.

Depeche Mode – Spirit (Columbia) – I feel like this album comes under the heading of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (sorry, grammar!).’ Depeche Mode have developed a signature sound over their long career and at this point in the game there isn’t much need to deviate. In Spirit they tackle many of the key issues we face today as a global community with their own unique style. For long-term fans and new, there’s not much here that will disappoint. This album feels familiar and comfortable more than new and exciting, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – The French Press (Ivy League Records/Sub Pop Records) – light, upbeat, driving, and full of variety. With essentially three lead singers/guitarists a band like this has endless options. While RBCF may sound a bit like a seasoned act with vaguely 80s roots, this is only their second album since bursting on the scene in Melbourne in 2015.

Hurry for the Riff Raff – The Navigator (ATO Records)– Alynda Lee Segarra has cultivated a very laid back folk rock sound, which she makes captivating with her smoky raw vocals. In an interesting twist, this is a concept album broken into two parts: alter-ego street kid Navita struggles with oppressive city life and decides to visit a witch to seek release. In act 2 she wakes under the witch’s spell, far in the future, and must learn to live in a very new world where everything she knew has disappeared.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts (Matador) – While this album still has a solid footing in the indie rock style that has driven Spoon for over 20 years, there is a fair amount of synth dabbling that leans the overall feel towards the realm of poppy electronic music. At times the album feels a little scattered, possibly the side-product of the band exploring new sounds and expanding their range.

The Kernal – Light Country (Single Lock Records) – kind of what it says on the tin: light country. It’s a little country, a little classic rock, maybe a bit of folk and gospel. Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of current country music, but this album showcases the aspects of the genre that have always appealed to me: the shared rural Southern musical roots that underlie so much of America’s current musical landscape.

Tinariwen – Elwan (Anti-) – bluesy with a West African flair. All language barriers aside, it’s hard to miss the deep and moody beauty of the vocals. Lots of groove, but all very understated – the simplicity is its strength. Each layer of sound or lyric seems perfectly, carefully placed to add to the progression of the track.

Newish Arrivals You May Have Missed!:

Various – Everett Sounds Volume 1  (Live in Everett) – this much-needed compilation was brought to you by Live in Everett. Check out a sampling of the local flavor that has been contributing to a very vibrant and growing Everett music scene. These albums have been checked out steadily since we got them in-house, so you’ll need to place a hold to snag a copy.

Number Girl – School Girl Distortional Addict (Toshiba EMI Lmtd.) – A solid garage band/punk rock release in Japanese – what’s not to love? Fans of the Pixies and Stooges might want to give this a listen.

Music Review: 100 Years Ago Tomorrow

100 Years Ago Tomorrow Cover Art

Last year the Everett Public Library undertook a project to re-frame the conversation about the series of events that had become known as the Everett Massacre. It was the 100th anniversary of the most notorious chapter in Everett’s history, and there was a desire on all parts to move away from the usual recitation of ‘who shot first?’ speculations. Early on, members of a variety of historical organizations and City offices gathered together to brainstorm how to best approach the topic, and one name was repeatedly put forth: Jason Webley.

Jason, a hometown favorite known for his eclectic and often political mix of folk, punk, and alternative music, had recently captivated local audiences with his Margaret project. For those unfortunate enough to have missed that one, it was a night of music, and later a book, that was inspired by the chance discovery of a scrapbook in a dumpster in San Francisco. By all accounts, Jason Webley not only created music that night, he made magic out of local history; his rare talent seemed to be a natural fit to tell the story of the Everett Massacre.

As Jason freely admits, he had some reservations about undertaking the project, but thankfully for all he changed his mind. From there, he was able to assemble a remarkably-talented team of musicians and artists and began working with them on his concept. At least this is the part of the story most people know from his telling. What I think gets lost, but is incredibly important, is the amount of time and effort Jason himself spent poring over sources related to the Everett Massacre. Jason was a regular in the Northwest History Room, spending hours talking with David Dilgard and peppering him with questions. His curiosity about the topic was passionate, and seemingly unquenchable; you could tell that when he undertook a project it consumed him until it was completed. Emails requesting clarifications or more resources arrived at all times of the day, and from all over the globe (Jason seems to constantly be traveling). There was such a strong desire on the part of Jason, and by extension the other artists, to get everything just right that you couldn’t help but be incredibly excited to see the final result.

Needless to say, the final product met and exceeded expectations. You could feel the audience ‘getting it.’ All the nuances about what is an extremely complicated series of events. All the tragedy, and all the missed opportunities to avoid disaster. All the harm done in oversimplifying how we see historical figures, even those that can be clearly painted as villains. Hauntingly, the show also made easy ties to current events that were unfolding in November of 2016; the same fear, animosity, and sense of mistrust that inflamed passions in 1916 seemed to be permeating the political climate 100 years later. The audience was rapt and quick to respond. At the end of the night the overwhelming question was: did anyone record this?

Well, as it turns out, yes and no. At the time, some video of the event was uploaded to YouTube, but nobody had made a professional recording. Thankfully, due to the high-level of interest, Jason and his colleagues decided to meet up and record their pieces in studio and to produce the album via an Indiegogo campaign. The project was fully funded, with all proceeds going to the ACLU. I’m happy to say that we now have a handful of copies available for check out so that those who were there could relive the event, and those who missed it can take part in their own way. Listeners to this powerful collection of history and protest in musical form will not be disappointed. Place your holds now!

For a preview, and a little behind the story information about the project, check out Jason Webley’s intro video for the project.

PAWS to Read at the Everett Public Library

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Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp is a wonderful new picture book. Madeline Finn DOES NOT like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream truck. But Madeline Finn DOES want a gold star from her teacher. Stars are for good readers. Stars are for understanding words. And saying them out loud. Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad. When Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. Madeline Finn can pet her until she figures the word out. As it turns out, it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it’s okay to go slow. And to keep trying. Just like the sticker says.

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Did you know that the Everett Public Library has just such a program?  It’s called PAWS to Read and happens at the Evergreen Branch on Mondays from 3 to 5 PM and at the Main Library on Tuesdays from 3:30 until 5:00 PM. This program runs through December 13th, 2016, but will start up again in January. We have wonderful dog and human volunteers who come to the library faithfully each week to help our children learn to read.

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The dogs act as an incentive for the children to read more and to read better. Dogs are viewed as a non-threatening entity to promote reading, writing, and increased interaction and social skills in the child. As a result, children experience higher reading levels and higher levels of word recognition as well as word comprehension.

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The dogs used in this program are especially calm and unobtrusive and settle in as part of the class. The children view the dogs as lovable and non-judgmental, which are the keys to success in this program. Children report that the dogs give them confidence because the dog does not make fun of them if they read slowly or mess up pronouncing a word. The dogs are great listeners and give the child a sense of comfort while reading. Children have been known to practice with their personal pets at home in preparation for the Paws to Read dogs.

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Come on down to the library just like Madeline Finn and meet our PAWS to Read dogs. They’re awesome!

“Hewitt and Wetmore 1916,” a Poem by Constance Schultz

Hewitt Avenue

In honor of the centennial of a dark chapter in local history that became known as the Everett Massacre, the Everett Public Library called on the community to create art. While most of the submissions that arrived were in visual art forms, some wonderful writing was also sent to us. In preparation for this weekend’s events, A Reading Life would like to share one of those pieces.

“Hewitt and Wetmore 1916,” by Constance Schultz

Beverly Park an area
for shame on
our town

The gauntlet and swirl of
injustice
the blood flowing

An attempt to silence
that which cannot stand calm
The past and future
Calista and Verona
The ships that carried
the backup for the Wobblies

Floated in Everett harbor
waiting to puncture the
pressure

Oh Everett
civil yet sweet
bursting with unions

of one type
or another
balancing power

Quick Picks!

c1d4eb0de14c5411ecece51e6819d96eDid you know that we have a browsing section of books at the Everett Public Library that consists of newly published trade and mass market paperbacks? They are called “Quick Picks” and you can find great titles that are almost always available because no one can place holds on these books. Think of it: Brand new hot paperback titles, yours for the taking. This is your chance to get those hardbound bestsellers that are just out in paper. Here are a few that I have eyed lately.

index-3Look closely at the photo above.  I just spied a book which is on the current paperback non-fiction bestsellers list. Do you see it? S P Q R by Mary Beard is a history of Rome with passion and without technical jargon. It’s history written with common sense, a point of view and a healthy level of snark just to keep things interesting. So this is how perusing the Quick Picks works. You find books that you didn’t even know you needed!

 

51ab-hiwhml-_sx336_bo1204203200_I recently found a stunner of a book, Isabella the Warrior Queen.  Kristin Downey takes the Spanish Queen out from behind the shadow of Ferdinand and illuminates her importance in the history of the world. As Queen, she took effective measures against the Muslim threat to western civilization, had the vision to support Columbus’ venture and set the stage for the Spanish/Hapsburg empire building in Europe and the Americas. Oh, yes. And she started the Inquisition. Oops!  Nonetheless, this is an amazing story of a remarkable woman that reads like a novel. I highly recommend it!

indexThere’s a great selection of non-fiction in the Quick Picks section. Julie, a co-worker, recommended Pogue’s Basics: Life; Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You). It’s a great ‘nibbler’ book and by that I mean you can open it up anywhere and read a bit. There’s useful information like how to remember how to set the utensils on your table: it’s alphabetical, fork, knife, spoon from the left. Also, fork and left both have four letters while knife, spoon and right have five letters. See? You gotta read this one!

index-1Welcome to Subirdia by John M Marzluff is also available as a Quick Pick. There are always overflow crowds when this University of Washington professor lectures at EPL. Avoid the crowds and get this author all to yourself with this book about how birds have adapted and survived in urban areas. In this fascinating and optimistic work, Marzluff tells how our own actions affect the birds and animals that live in our cities and towns, and he provides ten specific strategies everyone can use to make human environments friendlier for our natural neighbors.

index-2I just grabbed a copy of The Shell Collector which is a collection of exquisitely crafted short stories by the author of the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestseller All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. This is a wonderful collection of longish short stories. The loose theme that weaves them together is water, the sea, love of nature, and finding your place in life, even if it means severing ties with those you love. Check it out if only to read the title story. And to gaze at the cover. Beautiful.

index-1Did you miss Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun when it was popular as a hardbound book? Read the Quick Pick! This novel by Beryl Markham transports you to 1920’s Kenya and the world of Out of Africa. This is historical fiction that is beautifully written, historically accurate, and utterly engrossing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes strong female figures and/or has an interest in 20th century colonial Africa. This is one great read.

 

index-2Who can resist the idea of a book barge on the Seine in Paris where the bookseller, Jean Perdu, uses his intuition to select just the right book to deal with whichever emotion – small or large – is afflicting you? Nina George writes a charming, wise and winsome novel in The Little Paris Bookshop. We go on a journey with Perdu to the South of France as he moves from being lost in grief to slowly reclaiming himself and his life. The further south we go, the warmer the weather and the more Perdu comes alive. Bookseller. Lost love. The wisdom of books. All combine to make an enchanting read. Don’t miss it.

So remember to check out our Quick Picks collections at both locations. Browse a selection of mystery, romance, and notable bestsellers. Don’t waste your money on books when you can borrow them from your library. Quick! Pick a book!

I’m Going on a Car Trip and I’m Taking…

5315332489_da1eaf57df_bPerhaps you know the car game that is similar to the one called “I’m Going on a Picnic” where the first person says something starting with the letter “A” and the second person says the thing starting with “A” and something starting with the letter “B”. On it goes in alphabetical order until someone forgets or you get to the last letter.

Well, we’re going on a twelve-hour car trip with two young girls, ages two and four, for our family vacation this labor day and I am reminded of that game as I set about packing and checking out items from the library in preparation for the long day’s drive. Here’s my alphabetical library packing list.

indexI’m going on a long drive and I’m taking an Audio Book. It needs to be one that the whole family will enjoy and so that means a kid’s story. I will probably end up with Hank the Cowdog. Hank thinks that he’s in charge of a ranch in Texas and has a lot of responsibilities that he tries to get his side kick Drover to do. Drover can’t because his leg hurts! We love listening to Hank’s adventures and you’re in luck if you do also, because there are lots of Hank books.

index (1)I’m going on a long drive and I’m taking a regular old Book. I’ll need it for reading by the pool in the bright sunlight. I’ll limit myself to one and take Shadows in the Vineyard. The subtitle is: the true story of the plot to poison the world’s greatest wine. I love reading about things that really have happened and Parisian detectives, small towns in France and wine. I’ll have to drink a glass while reading, non? Besides, I just love the feel of our quick pick books: soft and literary, or so it seems.

index (2)I’m driving twelve hours to Idaho and I’m taking lots of Children’s CD’s. We always take my favorite Cowboy Playground, but this time we hope to also take Laurie Berkner’s new one called Superhero. This much-anticipated album is her first of original titles since 2008. We are always enchanted by her imaginative and empowering lyrics. I’m excited to listen to this new CD because I’m sure there will be some great songs for storytime song and dance.

index (3)We’re driving to Idaho and taking some DVD’s from the library. We probably won’t have Hello, My Name is Doris yet because we’re down the hold list but will take London Has Fallen (which is one big chase scene) or Eddie the Eagle. It’s about an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself, even as an entire nation was counting him out. I want to watch this ‘delightfully feel-good’ movie while on vacation.

index (4)I’m driving to Idaho and I’m taking an Ebook. It’ll probably be an audio ebook as I know I’ll be driving the long stretches while everyone else is napping. I love that kind of straight driving without interruptions like tailgaters or traffic of any sort, but you need some distraction. How about something by Bill Bryson like A Walk in the Woods? It’s funny and the author reads it to you and it’s about a wild adventure. Besides, the book is always better than the movie, right?

So, I’ll spare you the whole alphabet and skip F G H I J K and go to L, because I’ll be sure to pack my Library Card. My husband once flew to Idaho with only his library card as identification (back in the day when we had photos on them). Long story, but the point is you need your card to check out ebooks and magazines or to access expensive databases that are free with your library card. Or to board a plane. Don’t leave home without it!

index (1)I’m driving to Idaho and I know the way but still want to take Maps. The Idaho Atlas & Gazetteer is awesome if you love topographical maps and don’t want to miss that beautiful lake that is just out of sight. (I’ll never forgive myself for the time we missed Hoover Dam because I was so anxious to get out of Las Vegas!) The atlas notes all of the historic sites, the unique natural features, good hiking, and national forests.

 

indexI’m going on vacation and I’m taking a Novel! I just found Invincible Summer by Alice Adams waiting for me on the hold shelf. Spanning two decades, Adams presents the interwoven lives of four friends as they leave college and embark on the unclear waters of adulthood. It has a nice, summery cover (which the previous borrower sprinkled with sand–a nice touch). I’ll give it a go and let you know what I think after the trip.

 

It’s such a big job packing for an adventure like this that I’d better gather these things now and finish this game when we’re on our way. Road trip!